Friday, September 14, 2007
3:10 to Yuma-- I tend to like it!
I must confess to being a Russell Crowe and a Christian Bale fan, as actors at least. I must also admit to loving well done westerns, and this is one. But on the other hand, most do overs turn out to be less good than the original, especially if it was a classic. As for the 1957 version of '3:10 to Yuma' I personally would not describe it as a classic. It was not in the category of 'High Noon' or even 'Gunfight at the O.K. Corral'. The story was suspensful then and it is in the remake, but the difference is severalfold: 1) Crowe and Bale are better actors than those in the original; 2) the supporting case is better; and 3) the cinematography is much better, not surprisingly since there are now HD cameras.
Unlike so many movies of late, this one is svelt. There is no lard, no filler, no marking of time, just 2 hours (actually a few minutes less) of pure drama. There is also no CG so far as I can tell, and no need for it either. The producers are to be commended for resisting the temptation to rely on the celestial technology now available. Westerns don't much need such bells and whistles. The actors also do their own stunts. The movie is old fashioned in many ways, and is all the better for it.
Perhaps a few reflection on the genre of Westerns is in order at this point. Lest we think the genre has died out altogether I would remind us all of recent excellent movies like 'Open Range' with Robert Duvall, perhaps the all time best cowboy either on TV or on the big screen. Who will ever forget his performance in that runaway smash series 'Lonesome Dove' with Tommy Lee Jones and a cast of thousands. But clearly enough Westerns have long since passed their heyday, the apex being in the 50s or early 60s, even on TV (remember 'Bonanza' or 'Shane' etc. ?). Why have Westerns faded into an also ran genre (and why exactly is '3:10 to Yuma' not showing in more first run theaters)? One suggestion is that we now live fully in the age of technology, the age of Star Trek and Star Wars. Kids don't want cowboy outfits and holsters and guns any more. They want light sabres, or more to the point sci fi X box games. Another reason surely is that the day that we believed in the triumph of rugged individualists who could ride into town and solve all our problems by rendering a sort of rough justice (remember the Clint Eastwood westerns?) is probably over. Disillusionment sets in after intractable quagmires like the war in Vietnam, now followed by the war in Iraq. There is no silver bullet and no lone ranger that could solve those sorts of problems.
Whatever the reasons for our lack of love for westerns these days, this movie has one feature that makes it especially interesting to Christians, and it is a regular feature of the western genre, and that is the presence and influence of the Bible, and in general Biblical ideas and religion, despite the toughness and roughness of life on the ole frontier. In '3:10 to Yuma' we have the nice juxtaposition of a villain, who is a somewhat likeable rogue, spouting one quote after another from the Bible. He is particularly fond of Proverbs. I am referring to the character Crowe plays-- big bad Ben Wade. He is also given to artistic expression in the form of doing pencil sketches. He is also a stone cold killer. Westerns of this ilk raise the very good question of how the Bible can be so omnipresent and yet seem to have so little impact on the behavior of those who keep quoting it fervently.
I will not spoil the plot of the movie which has all the classic elements of a good western drama but I will say this. Like in so many westerns, this is a story about the gaining of respect, and the redemption of a man's honor which had been besmirched by the vicissitudes of life and his failure to respond to them bravely and in good faith. So many westerns are about that sort of self-redemption. They are also about family values, interestingly enough
So go see this western if you have a chance, and see what all the critics are raving about, and in the process learn the winning ways of westerns, even if their rarity shows how westerns have lost most of their audience. For another excellent review of this movie see my colleague Lawson Stone's review at his website.